Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Advice for A Cohort

From a speech given at Cohort 8's Graduation, August 30, 2013:
My name is Mary Turner and I am a proud LA Fellow graduate of Cohort 7.

I was sitting where these Fellows are just 5 months ago. It has been my distinct pleasure to be the Program Assistant for this Cohort, seeing them through orientation, those first nervous interviews and - sorry guys – horrendous resumes, through their acceptance into the program and all the hard work, camaraderie and victories that followed. (Including *much* improved resumes!)

My Fellows of Cohort 8, you’ll get praise and congratulations and recaps all day from others, so I’ll leave that to those who are more eloquent than I am. You deserve it.

What I will offer you is some brief advice from someone who sat where you are sitting now poised to go forth and conquer the world once again.

Remember who you are. You are adaptable: bonding with a group of strangers from a diverse array of backgrounds and quickly becoming a team is a skill that served you well in this adventure and will carry you far in the next one.

Remember that you are in charge of managing your career. Make mindful decisions to get to where you want to be, don’t let fear make the decisions for you.

It’s okay to use a stepping stone to bridge a gap, until you’re ready for the next step, but don’t settle there if it’s not your destination. You may need to take a job to take care of finances or get the education you need for your goal, and that’s okay. Just remember that you are in motion, know your target.

Re-evaluate from time to time. Ask yourself:  Is what you’re doing working? If not,  make adjustments.

Stay in touch. You will not lose the need for your network once you’ve landed your next job. Or the next one. Or the one after that.  This is a support team you will be hard pressed to match anywhere.

Even if your career doesn’t take you toward the nonprofit field, stay connected to the nonprofit world. It needs the talent, intelligence and heart you have to offer. This is such a giving, caring group of people. Giving back will strengthen you wherever you go.

Never stop learning. Never stop sharing your knowledge. Your time in LA Fellows is a gift – pay it forward.

Never stop saying yes. Keep your search in motion. Be ready.

If your job search stalls, and you start to slide into old habits, call a fellow Fellow. Go over your action steps again. Ask yourself: What would Lynnette tell me to do?

My last piece of advice is advice I got from my favorite Fellow, Geni from Cohort 7: if you don’t feel like you’re making progress, get your face in front of people. Go to a conference, a board meeting, a seminar,  volunteer for your professional organization, find a new nonprofit to assist with something just beyond your comfort zone, but get your face in front of people.

This is especially true for this group: you are amazing human beings, and anyone who meets you can’t help but be impressed. I have been honored to be able to help you on your Fellows journey and hope you never doubt that you can do this and do this well. I hope you will stay in touch and return to regale me with the tales of your future successes. I know you will each do great things. Congratulations.


  1. Love it!

    Wendy Stackhouse, Graduate, Cohort 2

  2. Mary, what a powerful speech. Bravo!